Ninth Circuit consolidates Proposition 8 challenge with claim that judge was biased

Ninth Circuit consolidates Proposition 8 challenge with claim that judge was biased

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[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] on Tuesday consolidated [order, PDF] the ongoing Proposition 8 [text; JURIST news archive] case with an appeal of a denied motion to vacate [JURIST report] District Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling due to conflict of interest. Walker, who initially overturned Proposition 8 [JURIST report], is a gay man who has been in a committed same-sex relationship for 10 years. Although it was an open secret at the time of trial, Walker did not reveal this until retiring after the ruling. Supporters of Proposition 8, who won the right to defend the law [JURIST report] last week, declared this a conflict of interest that should have forced his recusal, as Walker’s long-term relationship implied a vested interest in same-sex marriage being legalized. The only Proposition 8-related matter not consolidated into this hearing is now the release of the original trial videos [JURIST report]. It is speculated the consolidation is designed to provide a clean appeal to the Supreme Court [Metro Weekly report] regardless of how the Ninth Circuit rules.

The battle over Proposition 8, a ballot initiative that amended the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive], continues, awaiting a ruling from the the Ninth Circuit. The Ninth Circuit heard oral arguments [video; JURIST report] in Perry v. Brown [case materials] at the end of 2010. The hearing was divided into two one-hour sessions, with the first section focusing on the issue of standing, and the second focusing on Proposition 8’s constitutionality. In March, the Ninth Circuit denied a motion [JURIST report] filed by California Attorney General Kamala Harris [official website] to lift the stay order [JURIST report] prohibiting gay couples from marrying while the appeal is pending. Walker’s ruling in August 2010 held that the ban violated both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause [Cornell LII backgrounders] of the Fourteenth Amendment and held that same-sex marriage was required as part of the fundamental right to marriage affirmed by the Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia [text].